HP opts for USB 3.0 over Thunderbolt in desktops

Well, that’s interesting. Last month, whispers from the rumor mill suggested that PC makers see Intel’s Thunderbolt interface as a replacement for USB 3.0, despite Intel’s assurances that the two technologies are complementary. PC World now reports that HP has chosen USB 3.0 over Thunderbolt for its desktop PCs… at least for now.

The site quotes HP Worldwide Desktop Marketing Manager Xavier Lauwaert as saying, "On the PC side, everybody seems to be content with the expansion of USB 3.0. Do we need to go into more fancy solutions? Not convinced yet." The executive also noted, "We did look at [Thunderbolt]. We’re still looking into it. Haven’t found a value proposition yet."

That’s a rather significant significant development in the USB 3.0 vs. Thunderbolt deathmatch, seeing as HP happens to be the world’s largest PC vendor by shipments. HP is putting its money where its mouth is, too. PC World points out that the company’s freshly released HPE h8 desktop PC can be ordered with SuperSpeed USB ports.

Users who’ve already purchased USB 3.0 devices might cheer the move, but I’m not all that thrilled. Apple clearly favors Thunderbolt, featuring that interface alongside USB 2.0 on both its iMacs and MacBook Pro laptops. If HP goes USB 3.0-only for now, and other PC vendors don’t overwhelmingly pick one side over the other, we could see a fragmented marketplace without a clearly dominant solution—and that’s not great for end users.

Comments closed
    • DrCR
    • 9 years ago

    I wish Apple gave us a FireWire3200.

    • potatochobit
    • 9 years ago

    apple also features an awesome mini digitial audio out port

    that only works in 2ch

    • moog
    • 9 years ago

    I for one am very happy with this arrangement. This redundancy or inefficiency will feed the families of thousands of engineers and other folks.

    Screw you end user. I’d rather they empty their wallet on both a WinBox and a Mac (if they must).

    • provoko
    • 9 years ago

    If apple chose thunderbolt, that’s the one that will most likely die, just like firewire. History repeating its self.

    • Bensam123
    • 9 years ago

    Who would’ve thought?

    • Krogoth
    • 9 years ago

    Thunderbolt’s future is not the desktop PC. It offers nothing compelling over USB 3.0 that makes it worth the headaches and cost. Bandwidth is a non-issue with USB 2.0/USB 3.0 . If bandwidth was such an issue that why it took forever for USB to replace old-fanged interfaces like parallel and serial in most desktops?

    Daisy-chaining argument is just smoking mirrors. You still have to deal with cabling on different external peripherals connecting to the chain itself. It might be useful for laptops due to the fact they are limited on port space. Again, most laptops aren’t really tied to multiple external peripherals and often use wireless alternatives.

    Thundebolt’s future is being an viable alternative to high-bandwidth, costly interfaces like Fibre Channel and 10Gigabit Ethernet in clustering and rendering environments.

      • HisDivineOrder
      • 9 years ago

      Exactly. Thunderpants brings nothing to the table for nearly all users that USB3 doesn’t also bring in equal measure. And USB3 is just cheaper. The fact that Apple is using one does not make it a standard. I’d argue the prevalence of USB3 in peripherals (mostly external hard drives and enclosures) already and the prevalence across motherboards/laptops being sold combined with this make it more of a situation that Apple is bucking the popular option rather than the way this article seems to be leaning, which is that Thunderpants is the popular option.

      USB3 is already being used by periperhals. What’s Thunderjolt doing for you other than warming a spot where a Displayport would have been? You bought that Thunderputz enclosure yet?

      USB3 is here, it’s useful now, and they’re getting cheaper every month now. Especially the enclosures. It brings the necessary increase in power output and speed, plus it’s b/c without any effort with USB2 (or extra controllers). Intel should have left Thunderbutt in the cooker a while longer, got it out with truely next gen speeds (and fibre) and kept it Lightpeak.

      Lightpeak has a future. Thunderflub has a limited future as a means for very specialized, expensive options that exceed the capabilities of USB3. But most users won’t ever have need for that.

        • NeelyCam
        • 9 years ago

        Overall I agree with you. But to me it just seems childish to call it Thunderpants/jolt/putz/butt/flub. All that name-calling makes it difficult to take you seriously.

        I think 90+% of TechReport readers are no longer in junior high.

    • xeridea
    • 9 years ago

    This whole thunderbolt thing is stupid. The clear answer is stick with USB. That way all your devices can use the same standard interface, and you don’t need as many ports. If you have say 4 USB ports, you can hook up ANY 4 devices, and not all the ports need to be super high speed. If you have 2 USB ports and 2 TB ports… 90% of people… who don’t need insanely fast speed, get to use all their ports. USB3 is fast enough for pretty much any device you would need to hook up, so why complicate things? You could handle current speeds of even the fastest bleeding edge SSDs right now on USB3, and that much speed should be pretty much sufficient for 99% of users in the foreseeable future. For a common use of USB now (besides low speed things such as mice), external hard drives, even USB2 is fine, because at best, with an externally powered drive, you will fully utilize USB2, and USB3 is 10.5x faster.

      • NeelyCam
      • 9 years ago

      “802.11b is perfectly fine – more than enough for everybody! I mean, 56kb/s modems are nowhere near saturating it, and even if you had a -GASP- DSL, 802.11b can easily handle the 1.5Mb/s download… even the future 3Mb/s would be a piece of cake!”

      Translation: things will get faster.

        • xeridea
        • 9 years ago

        One little problem with your comparison, internet speed obviously needed to get faster, it was terribly slow, and 100% of people would benifit from faster, but we didn’t make 2 internet’s, just made it faster. USB will be faster in future, …. USB4….. I am saying that USB3 is more than enough to handle current and foreseeable needs, and it will get faster, but we don’t need to invent another standard and force people to get certain devices that works with certain computers, or include needless ports to raise cost on computers that 99% of people don’t actually need, and for the 1%, USB3 is fast enough.

        Think also of different computers… everyone doesn’t but the most cutting edge high powered computer they can find, because 99% of people don’t need that. 90% are totally fine on your average dual core, they don’t need i7 Extremes. Others just need ultra portable laptops, and don’t care much for 300 Gbit external connections.

        Can you list some devices that actually need 10 Gbit speeds? Any that will be used by more than 0.1% of the population (that wouldn’t be possible on USB3)?

    • smilingcrow
    • 9 years ago

    Common sense seems to have prevailed here.
    USB3 seems a very safe mainstream option for desktops and Thunderbolt seems interesting for workstations.
    I wonder whether some people are negative about USB3 because of the poor speeds of USB2!
    For many home users USB3 alone would be enough; no need for Firewire, eSATA or Thunderbolt and Lighfoot.

    • bcronce
    • 9 years ago

    TB is a bit too early. Once it goes fiber and reaches 20gb+, then it will turn into what Intel has been talking about for the past few years.

    TB will replace USB3, but not anytime soon. I don’t see TB being useful for at least 2 more years. After that, it will probably take off like a rocket.

    Anyone who says TB “won’t” overtake USB, isn’t looking at the big picture. It will happen, but not right now. TB will replace USB and everything else the same way PCIe replaced PCI. It took quite a few years but it will eventually happen.

    Until that day, USB3 is perfectly fine and has quite a bit of life.

    fyi, I’ve read an article about USB3 that was talking about all the problems USB3 had to get to its speed while being backwards compatible. USB3 is currently up against its limit. There probably won’t be any more major revisions of USB, as to make it any faster would require breaking compatibility. They could make a new protocol and call it USB4, but it won’t be truly USB. At this point, TB will take over. Hell, if people are that concerned about the name, they could just rename it to USB4 as it would effectively be the same.

      • NeelyCam
      • 9 years ago

      I have to respectfully disagree. An optical TB has only one major benefit – distance. At short distances, optical links aren’t really that competitive with electrical links from cost or power consumption point of view. Optical can be a bit faster, but electrical links can also operate at very high speeds – 20Gb/s was demonstrated already back in 2006:

      [url<]http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpls/abs_all.jsp?arnumber=1696056[/url<] My guess is that USB4 (or whatever it might be called) will offer transfer speeds high enough at low enough cost/power that TB becomes pointless for anything except very high data rates or long distances. And yeah - backwards compatibility might be the thing that gets sacrificed, but I'm sure there will be hubs etc. to support older USB2/3 equipment while transitioning to USB4.

        • bcronce
        • 9 years ago

        You make good points, but USB4 will be pointless if you need an adapter. You can already plug a TB port into a USB3 hub and have USB3.

        Also, Intel plans on phasing out PCIe and SATA from their chipsets with TB.

        Once Intel has a chipset with 32 TB ports and 8 USB3 ports and no PCIe slots or SATA ports, I’m not sure why people would continue to use USB.

        One interface to rule them all. Also, they already showed off a 100gb/sec TB prototype using optics.

        Also, TB interfaces would be used for Ethernet. Instead of everyone making their own physical connectors, they just need to make their own chips and slap on an off-the-shelf TB interface. Boom 100gb/sec.

    • demani
    • 9 years ago

    It’s not surprising: until someone actually releases a Thunderbolt device (or even, like, a cable) it is a worthless port. But HP can roll out a new motherboard or three, adding it to the top of the line models without too much trouble at all when they finally start seeing some devices and/or demand.. And it likely won’t find its way to low-end models for a while-again, whats the value there?

    • zdw
    • 9 years ago

    Anyone have parts cost on the Thunderbolt controllers? I’m wondering how much more/less it is than a discreet USB3 controller.

    The sweet spot for Thunderbolt is laptops and reduced size machines that lack card slots (ie, most of Apple’s product line, which is not what the rest of the PC industry looks like).

    It comes down to cost to add to system, and number of peripherals available (as with most expansion ports). Also, in Thunderbolt’s case, if there’s Displayport video to combine with it as well, and how that would or wouldn’t work with discreet video cards.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 9 years ago

      The majority of the PC industry is laptops, and has been for a couple years now, and most of those have no slots. Even those that do, ExpressCard peripherals are few and far between unless you want eSATA/Firewire/extra USB ports because the size of the cards is so small – anything that requires any sort of power gets too hot for that tiny form factor.

        • Krogoth
        • 9 years ago

        Laptops aren’t the majority, but it is pretty close. It mostly due to the fact that laptops users often have a separate desktop. It is either something older or gets used for more stationary work.

          • vipw
          • 9 years ago

          Citation, please.
          By the way, it’s easy to find citations to the opposite: [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laptop[/url<] for example

    • derFunkenstein
    • 9 years ago

    I think it’ll change a bit once Intel adds USB 3.0 to the southbridge. Instead of paying for NEC’s or whoever else’s USB controller and integrating it to the board, you’ll see Thundabolt controllers with the PC using native USB 3.0.

      • willmore
      • 9 years ago

      It’ll be nice to have native USB3.0 support for Intel chipsets (like AMD has in the upcoming generation), but I sort of like having a non-chipset version of the host controller. You know, something we’re unlikely to ever see for Thunderbolt. Do we expect a VIA or NEC Thunderbolt controller? What about Thunderbolt in an AMD chipset? Yeah, not holding my breath for that, either.

      I don’t think the USB vs IEEE 1394 (uhh, ‘Firewire’) competition is a good analog to the USB3.0 vs Thunderbolt one. USB2.0 beat IEEE 1394 because the latter was overkill for 90% or more of users. Ever seen an IEEE1394 mouse or keyboard? No? Didn’t think so.

      Thunderbolt has a lot to recommend it (though I feel the reuse of the mini-DP connector was a horrible mistake), but it’s going to face a hard battle.

    • OneArmedScissor
    • 9 years ago

    I’m going to tear my hair out. Every computer with Thunderbolt needs to have USB 3.0 for it to function anything like what Intel claimed the point was. But no, let’s all feed the Thunderbolt vs. USB 3.0 spin.

    Coming soon: Thunderbolt 2.0 – with no Thunderbolt support!

    A better title would have been, “OEMs opt to not set money on fire.” This isn’t surprising. You have to buy a separate chip with an Intelified price tag. Intel themselves didn’t seem terribly interested in so much as licensing firewire for their southbridges. Good luck getting everyone else to add what is effectively a second southbridge. Take your own hint, dingdongs. This isn’t the whimsical world of $1,000 PCs with 50 mystery chips strewn all over a sprawling PCB anymore.

    • bdwilcox
    • 9 years ago

    [i<]Users who've already purchased USB 3.0 devices might cheer the move, but I'm not all that thrilled. Apple clearly favors Thunderbolt, featuring that interface alongside USB 2.0 on both its iMacs and MacBook Pro laptops. If HP goes USB 3.0-only for now, and other PC vendors don't overwhelmingly pick one side over the other, we could see a fragmented marketplace without a clearly dominant solution—and that's not great for end users.[/i<] -Yeah, 'cause the death of FireWire really tore my world apart...[/sarcasm]

      • End User
      • 9 years ago

      Thank goodness for FireWire. USB 2.0 transfer rates are dismal. I have not transferred large amounts of data over USB 2.0 in years. My fixed external storage has been connected via eSATA and my mobile storage is FireWire 800.

      USB 3.0 is my fallback strategy. My hope is that Thunderbolt products become widely available over the next 12 months.

        • NeelyCam
        • 9 years ago

        I’d say “Thank goodness for USB3”. That said, FireWire was pure gold when the only alternative was USB2.0.

        • Krogoth
        • 9 years ago

        Good luck with that.

        I honestly don’t see TB being commonplace anytime soon.

        USB 3.0 already beat it to the punch in the external storage department.

          • End User
          • 9 years ago

          Thunderbolt will be on every Mac sold by the end of the year. I hope we will see it on many motherboards equipped with Intel chipsets within the next 12 months.

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